Everyone enjoys a great love story, and this one is one of my favorites. Without it there would be no me! 🙂 Mom’s story her and Dad’s courtship:
I was sitting in the library at Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, Alabama, with my brother David. It was January 1, 1957, during Christmas vacation, and we were the only ones at school. We stayed at the college because our parents were missionaries in Nicaragua so we couldn’t go home. Suddenly, I heard my name screamed and looked up to see my good friend Kathe from Nebraska in the doorway with a young man I did not know.
Kathe had been my roommate the year before at Columbia Bible College in Columbia, South Carolina. I had received a letter from her at the beginning of vacation saying she had gotten a ride as far as Missouri with a student named Hal Thompson who had a car (few Bible college students did in those days) and taken a bus to her home in Nebraska. She wrote that they drove right through Birmingham and she had tried to convince Hal to stop so she could see me, but he wouldn’t hear to any delays. According to college rules students traveling in mixed groups had to be off the road by 10:00 p.m., so there were limited hours to drive.
But here they were in Birmingham! Kathe said later that she had begged so much to stop and see her friend Frieda that Hal, exasperated, said, “Okay, we will stop and visit this girl, and she better be as great as you say she is!”
Out to eat
Three students besides Kathe were riding with Hal to various places on his way to his home in Missouri. They invited us to go with them to find a restaurant, and all seven of us piled into Hal’s 1953 Plymouth Belvedere (yellow with a white top!). At the restaurant Hal paid for my meal, something I appreciated greatly. Kathe had told him I was a “missionary kid,” so I thought he probably just thought I could not afford the luxury of eating in a nice restaurant (which was true).
After supper, Hal told Bob, his friend from Oklahoma, to drive, and Hal sat in the back seat with me and two others. The seven of us drove around town looking for a tourist attraction called the Vulcan, a huge iron statue on a hill. I don’t remember if we ever got there. Bob and Hal kept the rest of us laughing. Hal put his arm around the seat behind me. I thought it was just because we were so crowded, . . . or did he want to put his arm around me?
We got permission for the girls to stay with me in the girls’ dorm, and the boys went to the YMCA. When they dropped us off at the dorm, Hal told us girls, “We will pick you up in the morning at 7:30, go eat breakfast, and leave Frieda and David at her work on our way out of town. As the guys drove off, one of the girls remarked, “Wow, he always wants to leave at 5:00 in the morning.”
I was impressed with Hal. He was good looking, lots of fun, and most important–planning to spend his life serving the Lord. I wasn’t sure if he was interested in me or just friendly. It occurred to me to wonder if he would think I was too tall for him. On the way between the restaurant and where we parked, I tried to see our reflection in the store windows. We looked to be about the same height. (He was in inch taller, but he has always said it wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway.)
After they all left to go on to Columbia, I asked David what he had thought of each of them, one by one and leaving Hal until last. “What about that Hal Thompson?” David answered, “I think he fell for you like a ton of bricks!” I hoped David was right that Hal was interested, but I thought he could be mistaken, thinking that a guy who was just friendly was falling for his sister.
Will I hear from him again?
When we had been driving around, someone mentioned that I had a birthday coming up in one week. I thought to myself, “If he wants an excuse to write me, he will send me a birthday card.” So I waited all week, thinking I was crazy to be that interested in a guy I didn’t really know, but hoping to hear from him. I remember actually thinking this was a guy I might actually want to marry. Finally, it was January 7, my birthday and no card in the mail. I kept scolding myself for being so disappointed.
On January 8, however, I received a birthday card from Hal! I wrote to him, and we exchanged several letters. He asked me to be in the recreation room of the college near the public telephone at 8:00 the night of Valentine’s Day so he could call me! Before we met I had made plans to visit my sister who was attending Columbia Bible College where he was for spring break. On the telephone, Hal asked if I would save time in my schedule for a date with him. I thought I gave a clever answer in the affirmative, but as it turned out, he misunderstood and thought I turned him down.
I wrote a letter to him saying how much I had enjoyed talking to him. I walked through a rare Birmingham snow several blocks to the mailbox to mail it. I waited for an answer, and waited, and waited. No more letters came. From February 14 to sometime in March or April, I kept hoping, mad at myself for hoping. Spring break came and I had a ride to Columbia, so I proceeded with my plans to visit my sister Sunny and see all my friends there.
Kathe had arranged for all the group from the Christmas ride to eat breakfast together. My brother David had spring break also and was there. Hal greeted me with a warm smile and a handshake and that was it. He talked to everyone else and never looked in my direction. That was Saturday. On Wednesday Kathe saw Bob and asked him what happened that Hal made no attempt to be friendly to Frieda. Bob asked what had happened to Frieda, and said that Hal was very disappointed and hurt. It turned out that he thought I didn’t want to date him, and he hadn’t gotten my letter. I learned later he definitely wasn’t the type to hang around and beg if he thought he was rejected. On Thursdays the rules allowed guys to sit and talk to their girl friends for a half hour before supper, and Hal invited me to talk with him. They were allowed to date twice on a weekend, so he asked me for Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
Dating in cars wasn’t allowed except for juniors and seniors and then only double dates, but the campus was downtown in walking distance of everything. Hal bought me an orchid for that first date (they were not quite out of fashion yet). He took me to a restaurant that specialized in steaks. He got permission to pick out the steaks to be cooked for us. I’m pretty sure I had never eaten a grilled steak, and certainly not one that big. I was too nervous to eat, so he ate his and most of mine.
As we ate he told me briefly his life story. He was raised on a ranch near Clinton, Oklahoma. He attended a one room school house first grade through high school except for his junior year. He left home when he was fourteen to work on different ranches. His specialty was breaking horses. Nobody in his family went to church. When he was eighteen he attended a church service for the first time. He was invited to a revival meeting in the Methodist church (by a girl he wanted to date he admitted to me much later). He knew nothing about the Bible except that his mother had always said it was God’s word and that it was true. On the last night of the week of revival meetings he asked God to take charge of his life. After high school he joined the Air Force for four years. He was in the Intelligence division and spent the last two years in Germany. When he was discharged, he used the GI Bill to go to Bible College. He was still in his freshman year when we met. Again, everything about him impressed me.
A match made in heaven
On our second date he asked if I wanted to serve the Lord like my parents, if I could play the piano, and if I could type. Fortunately, the answer to all three questions was yes. He didn’t say he loved me, but he made it abundantly clear he thought he had found everything he was looking for in me.
Two weeks later it was spring break at his school, and he drove to Birmingham to visit me. After that we wrote letters . . . for the next four years. During that time, I was in Dallas, Birmingham, Los Angeles, Nicaragua. He would manage to visit me every six months to a year. Telephone calls cost by the minute and were expensive. Anything important was too important to bring up in a short time, and anything trivial seemed a waste of precious time.
I’ll skip over those four years and say we were married in 1961 and finally got to spend time together! That was sixty years ago, and it is still a blessing to be together!
More from my mom>>> Missionary Travel Stories
Thanks so much for reading!